common school injuries

Common School Injuries and Accidents


Medically reviewed by Misty Seidenburg

If you have children, you probably hope for an injury-free summer. But now that school is back in session, parents, guardians, and teachers should be aware of common accidents among students. This helpful guide will cover common school injuries and share the benefits of physical therapy for helping students recover and return to class as soon as possible.

Playground Injuries

Playgrounds are a great place for kids to let off steam, make friends, and take a break from sitting at a desk. Unfortunately, they are a common site for accidents. Every year, more than 220,000 children under 14 are treated in emergency rooms for playground injuries.

The playground can be noisy and chaotic, and it’s nearly impossible to supervise every child all the time. As a result, children lose their grip or their balance and fall off monkey bars and slides, They can become stuck in climbing structures, swings, and merry-go-rounds.

The most common injuries in school yards include broken bones, cuts and scrapes, strains and sprains, and head, neck, and back injuries.

Transportation Accidents

Many children walk, bike, or ride the bus to school. If they are distracted, or drivers aren’t following traffic signs and laws, the result can be a devastating collision. Broken bones and traumatic head injuries (TBIs) are not uncommon. These injuries may require surgery and extensive physical therapy to fully recover.

Physical Education

The benefits of physical activity for children’s mental and physical health are widely reported. And while gym class is meant to be fun and engaging, too many students are ending up in the nurse’s office.

One study found that gym class injuries increased a staggering 150% over a ten-year period. Researchers believe that increase is in part due to larger class sizes and lack of adult supervision. Children reported cuts, fractures, sprains and strains from falls and bumping into equipment and other children.

Sports Injuries

In the U.S., 30 million children and teens participate in some type of organized sports, and among those student-athletes, there are more than 3.5 million injuries every year, according to Stanford Medicine. Sprains and strains are the most common sports injuries. They occur most often in contact sports like football, ice hockey, and men’s lacrosse.

Sports and other recreational activities account for nearly one-quarter of all TBIs—including concussion (a mild form of TBI)—among American children, and half of those occurred in skating, skateboarding, and bicycling. Proper protective equipment, conditioning, and good form and technique can all significantly reduce the risk of sports injuries among children.

Tech Injuries

Gone are the days when students used loose leaf paper and a No. 2 pencil to take notes. In many districts, learning has moved entirely online. That means a heavy Chromebook, laptop, or tablet, and all of the gear that comes with it.

Certainly technology has its benefits. But prolonged used of these devices increases the risk of a number of tech-related injuries:

  • Headaches: Eye strain from staring at a screen all day can cause headaches and migraines.
  • Tech Neck: Poor workspace ergonomics can lead to poor posture and pain from being hunched over a screen or keyboard.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: This is compression of the median nerve in the wrist caused by typing and other repetitive motions for long periods of time.
  • Texting thumb: Repetitive motion of the thumb for gaming or texting can irritate the joints and ligaments of thumb, hand, and wrist.

It’s difficult to curb technology use when it is a school requirement. However, kids can mitigate these problems by cutting back on screen time and stretching to counteract poor posture and repetitive use injuries.


You might be surprised about this final category of school related injuries—that is, unless you have recently picked up your child’s fully-stocked bookbag. The U.S. Product and Safety Commission reports that backpacks send an estimated 5,000 children to the emergency room every year, and 14,000 kids report backpack-related injuries overall.

But are our children’s backpacks really that heavy? Yes. Since COVID-19, many school districts have opted not to use lockers because they require children to congregate in close proximity to each other.

That means many students have to carry their school supplies along with lunch, heavy water bottles, gym clothes, and sports gear. While a backpack should weigh no more than 10-15 % of the child’s body weight, they often weigh much more.

A hefty backpack can impact their posture and cause neck and shoulder tension, headaches and migraines, and sprains and strains. This is especially problematic for children with a pre-existing stress fracture or scoliosis.

To lighten that load, choose a bag with two wide shoulder straps and a padded chest or waist belt. If your child’s school allows, consider a rolling backpack on wheels. Encourage your child to distribute items throughout the different pockets and compartments to distribute the weight evenly, and remove unnecessary items often to allow your child to travel as lightly as possible.

Physical Therapy for Students of All Ages

Physical therapy is not just for older individuals, and it’s not just for people who have had surgery.

Physical therapy is available for children of all ages to address conditions that cause pain and dysfunction. As licensed physical therapists, we take a caring and compassionate approach to treating the unique needs of younger patients with a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions.

For many, this may be their first experience with physical therapy. We take the time to explain the process and how specific treatments and therapies will help them move and feel better. Through exercise and hands-on modalities, we help younger patients recover from back-to-school injuries, and teach them practical ways to avoid getting hurt again.

Education on a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle choices for growing bodies are also part of what we do in physical therapy. We acknowledge and celebrate every milestone so patients can take pride in their progress and feel confident that the finish line is in sight.

If your child was hurt on the field or the playground, physical therapy may be a viable treatment option. To learn more or schedule an initial screening for a recent injury, find a physical therapy clinic near you.

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Medically reviewed by

Misty Seidenburg

Vice President of Clinical Programs

Dr. Misty Seidenburg has been a practicing physical therapist since 2006 after obtaining her Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree from Gannon University. Dr. Seidenburg completed an Orthopedic Residency in 2009 and subsequent Spine Fellowship in 2010 where she discovered a passion for educating clinicians. Since 2019, she has developed and refined several post-professional residency and fellowship programs and currently serves as the Vice President of Clinical Programs for Upstream Rehab Institute. She serves on several APTA committees to help advance the profession, is adjunct faculty at Messiah University, and is also a senior instructor and course developer for the Institute of Advanced Musculoskeletal Treatments with a special interest in exercise integration. Outside of work, she enjoys challenging herself with new adventures and is currently competing as an endurance athlete.

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